Road warriors: U women’s hoops heads to Wyoming

The U women’s basketball team is in Laramie, Wyo. tonight for a 7 p.m. battle with conference foe Wyoming.

The Utes (17-5, 6-1) are looking to remain tied atop the Mountain West Conference standings with the New Mexico Lobos while the Cowgirls (12-8, 3-4) look to continue the improvement they have demonstrated the last two years.

The Utes have won 27 in-a-row in this series, and, if nothing else, it should provide the Cowgirls with plenty of motivation to take down the perennial powerhouse of the MWC.

U junior forward Kim Smith, who leads the conference in rebounding, said that her team would be well-advised not to overlook a talented Wyoming team on the road.

“It’s always harder on the road,” Smith said. “Wyoming is going to be fired up because they just lost to Air Force and they always want to beat us.”

Wyoming head coach Joe Legerski, who coached as an associate head coach and an assistant coach to Elaine Elliott for 12 years, said the Cowgirls shouldn’t get concerned about the fact that they haven’t beaten the Utes in more than 10 years.

“As a team, you can’t get caught up in something like a streak,” Legerski said. “You have to remember that none of the players were here 10 years ago and I wasn’t here 10 years ago so you can’t get caught up in the fact that Wyoming hasn’t defeated Utah for a long time.”

Legerski, who took over as head coach for Wyoming two years ago, has assembled a core of players that could pose a problem for any team in the conference.

Senior guard Ashley Elliott is making a strong case for MWC Player of the Year while two Wyoming newcomers are making a splash in just their first year at the school.

Elliott is the only player in the conference who ranks No. 1 in three statistical categories. She is currently No. 1 in scoring with 16.9 points per game, No. 1 in steals with an average of 2.85, and she leads the MWC in 3-point field goals made. Elliott averages 4.15 assists per game, and she is generally considered the heart and soul of the Cowgirls.

Freshman Hanna Zavecz, an Australian freshman forward, has made her presence known quickly in the MWC. Her average of 15 points per game is good enough for fourth in the conference while her 6.7 rebounds per game lands her in the top 10 in the MWC.

Wyoming also added a junior-college transfer from Northwest College and junior guard Erin Hicks, during the offseason. Hicks is currently third on her team in scoring with 10.2 per game and first on her team in rebounding with an average of 7.3

“Wyoming has a nice club,” said U head coach Elaine Elliott. “You’ve got to give Joe (Legerski) credit for getting some good, young kids. He’s got that nice freshman from Australia. He’s got a JC kid. He’s still got [Ashley] Elliot. He’s putting together a program and you can see it in that team.”

The Cowgirls, who have played 10 of their last 12 games on the road, are happy to be back at home for five of their seven remaining games.

“No doubt, it’s good to have some home games,” Legerski said.

The Utes are back in action this Saturday afternoon in the Huntsman Center when they take on the Lobos for a game that will, in all likelihood, determine the winner of the regular season MWC title.

[email protected]